A horn sounds, a twirl of colorful silk waves by, kisses on the cheeks are exchanged by family members, and the Iranian New Year has arrived. Farhang Foundation’s annual celebration of Nowruz (the Iranian New Year) was back this March and included a special concert by Orange County’s Pacific Symphony Orchestra under the direction of musical director Carl St. Clair. Presented in collaboration with the Farhang Foundation and held at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa, the Nowruz Concert also featured acclaimed composer and conductor Maestro Shardad Rohani presenting his own exclusive composition of the beloved Dance of Spring Overture to welcome spring.

Notable Iranian composers included Hossein Yousefzamani and Shahin Yousefzamani, and special guest performers included two of Iran’s most notable female artists, vocalist Mojgan Shajarian, daughter of the late master Mohammad Reza Shajarian, as well as master guitarist Lily Afshar. Guests also experienced the Grand Haft Sîn display – a symbolic and traditional Iranian tablescape celebrating the arrival of spring featuring an eye-catching centerpiece of Nowruz displayed in Iranian households to ring in the New Year with good wishes for all, along with Iranian dance performances by the Melieka Fathi Dance Company and traditional Nowruz musicians as a pre-show and intermission celebration in the lobby.

Haft Sîn Display at Pacific Symphony (Photo credit: Vafa Khatami)

Melieka Fathi is a choreographer, instructor, performer of classical Iranian dances and the founder and artistic director of the Melieka Fathi Dance Company. She has worked with world-renowned artists and organizations to preserve and expand upon Iranian arts within diaspora communities. The company’s unique style is defined as a blend of historic roots and diasporic inspirations.

Celebrated on the vernal equinox in Iran, Afghanistan, China, the United States, India, Tajikistan, Turkey, and beyond, Nowruz (meaning new day), is welcomed with vibrant displays of culture by more than 75 million people around the world. The event is nonreligious and universal to all by celebrating the arrival of spring.

“It was such an immense pleasure to be back in person and to be able to present the Nowruz Concert with the Pacific Symphony to music lovers once again,” said Alireza Ardekani, Executive Director, Farhang Foundation. “After being away for two years as the result of the pandemic-imposed hiatus, welcoming our sold-out audience to this annual celebration was so memorable and moving.”

Mojgan Shajarian (Photo credit: Vafa Khatami)

Farhang Foundation is a member-supported nonreligious, nonpolitical, and nonprofit foundation established in 2008 to celebrate and promote Iranian art and culture for the benefit of the community at large. The foundation supports a broad range of academic and cultural activities in Southern California by funding university programs, diverse cultural programs such as the celebrations of Nowruz, musical performances, film screenings and festivals in Southern California.

“We have been counting the days until we can once again experience the Nowruz Concert in person here in Orange County. It is such a joyous day to be able to celebrate this ancient Iranian tradition with hundreds of other audience members,” said Newport Beach resident Sima Jalalvand. “I am so thankful to Farhang Foundation and the Pacific Symphony for their commitment to celebrating Nowruz in Orange County.”

(Photo credit: Vafa Khatami)

Another attraction to the annual celebration is the Nowruz Banner Design competition which brought in a record number of entries this year and has turned into a highly anticipated tradition ahead of the celebrations. It provides artists across the globe the opportunity to have their work decorating the streets of Los Angeles and Costa Mesa. This year’s winning designs were awarded to Iranian artists Najva Erfani from Iran (Los Angeles banners) and Rashin Kheiriyeh from the United States (Costa Mesa banners). The banners were displayed starting earlier in the year through the date of the celebrations to announce the festivities taking place.

If you missed this year’s events, then stay tuned for next year’s dates by visiting www.farhang.org